If you were to ask a baseball fan in 2011 who the best three pitchers in all of baseball were, I would be willing to bet that Tim Lincecum would be in everyone’s answer.
For reasons unknown to man, the San Francisco Giants‘ two-time Cy Young award winner has struggled in the ERA department over the past two seasons. After not producing an ERA over 3.43 since his rookie season in 2007, Lincecum has averaged an ERA of 4.77 since 2011, sparking rumors of an end to his Giants career heading into this past offseason.
What’s weird about the situation is Lincecum is still under 30 years of age with no significant arm injuries, but yet we’ve seen a drop in velocity and performance all of a sudden. Has the workload taken its toll? Possibly, but no one has been able to pinpoint the cause of the recent performance.
All hasn’t been lost for Lincecum, as he’s still been able to rack up strikeouts during his struggles, which is always a good sign. Lincecum even threw a no-hitter in 2013, which makes his situation even more baffling.
The Giants obviously still believe in Lincecum because he was re-signed this offseason to a two-year deal worth $35 million. Lincecum said he didn’t want to turn his career around in another uniform, giving the impression that he almost felt he owed it to San Francisco to revive his career while wearing a Giants uniform.
Early this spring, it seemed as if Lincecum was well on his way to getting back on track when he had only allowed two earned runs in his first nine 2014 Cactus League innings. We were finally seeing shades of the pre-2012 Lincecum. He then somewhat quieted the buzz when he allowed five runs in five innings with no strikeouts in his last start on March 17. But okay, just one bad start, nothing to worry about — right?
That was until Lincecum followed that performance with another dud in Sunday’s 13-9 win against the Kansas City Royals. Lincecum allowed seven runs in 4.1 innings of work, but he did strikeout seven Royals in the game.
So now we’re back to being confused about who Lincecum is as a pitcher. Was Lincecum’s early spring success a product of hitters not being up to speed? Are his last two subpar starts just a product of normal Spring Training hiccups? Can he ever be the 2007-11 Lincecum again? Are the struggles mental? Mechanical?
I guess we will all find out in due time as the season opener is right around the corner.